There has recently been an explosion of plant-based alternative meat products that have come on the market with the promise of more yet to come.
Burger King now has the Impossible Burger, a plant-based hamburger, in all of its local stores and nationwide. Subway is introducing a Beyond meatball sub, another plant-based meat alternative. And KFC is introducing its fried Beyond chicken products.
These products are also finding their way into large food contracts for schools, airports and other facilities where food is served to the public.
According to the Plant-Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute, retail sales of plant-based foods in the U.S. have grown 11% in the past year. That makes the current plant-based market value more than $4.5 billion.
To put some perspective on that, the total U.S. food market grew by only 2% in the same timeframe. So, plant-based foods are making inroads into the American diet.
Since April 2017, sales of plant-based foods have increased by 31%. Refrigerated plant-based meat sales are up 37%.
It's not just substitute meat products though. These growth figures are also applicable to plant-based milks, cheeses, yogurts and ice cream. For example, plant-based milk sales are up 6% over the past year, and they now comprise 13% of all milk sales in the United States.
Plant-based yogurt sales have grown 39%, and plant-based cheese sales have grown 19%. Conventional milk and yogurt sales have declined during the same period.
Plant-based ice cream sales have grown 27% while conventional ice cream has grown by only 1%.
There is clearly a movement towards plant-based foods that is taking shape in this country. We're seeing it here in the Lowcountry as well. More and more restaurants are offering plant-based options, as noted by the Eat Smart Live Longer Club stickers displayed on their windows.
And one restaurant, Pure Natural Market on Hilton Head Island, recently went entirely plant-based.
This month, a celebration of the plant-based trend will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 19 at Shelter Cove Community Park. This event, Lowcountry Vegfest, is now in its fourth year.
As Carla Golden, the event's organizer, likes to describe it, "It's a party." And what a party it is! Two nationally recognized speakers in the plant-based movement, author Colleen Patrick Goudreau and hip hop artist Grey, will be featured. Musical entertainment will be provided by Lowcountry Boil, a community favorite band.
VegFest is expected to draw more 1,200 people and will include vendors for food, services, organizations and merchandise.
For those wanting to celebrate the move toward more plant-based foods and products, there is no better way to show your support and to have a good time.
J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on healthy lifestyles.